Why Twitter is essential for Journalists

An attempt (once again) to rally our top journalists to start using Twitter, the definitive newsgathering tool, before its too late.

investigativetweeting

2012 was the year a handful of name-brand Jamaican journalists decided it was time to start using Twitter. That was pretty late in the day already. The majority however are still holding back, perhaps signalling their impending mortality or the end of their shelf lives as journalists to take seriously? We still have no @ianboyne, @markwignall, @cliffhughes, @MartinHenry (perhaps the only local science writer!) and many others who straddle traditional media like local giants.

This post is dedicated to all the non-tweeting local giants of Jamaican journalism: The following quote from How to break into science writing using your blog and social media (#sci4hels), a Scientific American article should clue you in on why you’re shortchanging your audiences by continuing to spurn the latest newsgathering technologies such as Twitter. In addition this useful but long article provides a lot of great information for journalists in general on how to use social media to find new audiences and outlets.

“Let’s focus on Twitter now. It is essential for a journalist. Not having – and using – a Twitter account today is like not having an email address ten years ago (and yes, some cutting-edge people are completely abandoning email and doing all of their communications over social media).

Big companies have suffered losses because their old-timey PR teams were unaware of the backlash on social media, and then incapable of responding correctly on social media. Businesses can lose money if they are missing key information that appears only on social media. Academia is especially horribly insulated and way behind the times. But nowhere is use of social media as important as in journalism. Don’t be this guy who was completely oblivious that his newspaper was in the center of national maelstrom of harsh criticism, because “I only deal with what’s on paper”.

When an airplane skidded off the runway in Denver, I knew it, along with 100,000s of other people, 12 minutes before everyone else. A passenger tweeted about it, and it spread like wildfire, including his updates, blurry photos, etc. CNN had a brief piece 12 minutes later. The accidental “citizen journalist” scooped them. Sometimes, for some news, these 12 minutes may be crucial for you.

Twitter and Facebook were key methods of communication not just between participants, but also to the outside world, during the Mumbai attacks and the Arab Spring.

People got jobs and gigs on Twitter that started their careers.

Journalists on deadline quickly find expert sources for their stories.

Journalists who observed the massive, instant, intense and scathing reactions of experts to #arseniclife or #Encode did not make the mistake of filing their positive stories and then having to backpedal later.

If all you see on Twitter is garbage, you are following the wrong people. You have to carefully choose who to follow, and then learn how to filter. Unfollowing is easy, and polite. You are not dissing your Mom, as if you would if you unfriended her on Facebook.”

And guess what the best thing about this most cutting-edge tool for journalists is? It’s free!

Author: Annie Paul

writer, editor and avid tweeter anniepaulose@gmail.com

8 thoughts on “Why Twitter is essential for Journalists”

  1. Thanks so much for pointing to this and I am glad you hammered the point home – how can journalists and opinion-makers of all kinds NOT be on Twitter? Those who do tweet are at such a huge advantage over the old school journalists in so many ways! I was astonished when you mentioned recently that a fairly high-profile TV journalist who says he doesn’t bother with it or something… I think it is mostly that traditional patriarchy of the print media, hanging onto their self-importance who don’t tweet. They should be embracing ALL social media. But Twitter is essential. And it’s easy enough to select the right people and organizations – I take an interest in environment, human rights so I follow a lot of those people. What is it that they don’t get about Twitter?

  2. It seems the problem with twitter is the noise to content ratio is SUPER high. Its hard to get any kind of focused news and even when you get focus stuff its intermingled in retweets and replies. Then on the other side you have reporters who basically are the mouth pieces of organised press. They already have a platform.

    As far as I see it the less of them on it the better.

    1. There’s noise only if you don’t know how to organize who you follow…there are filters available, its a matter of using them. i’ve almost completely stopped reading local newpapers now in print that is, coz i get all the news and more through my Twitter feed.

      Also i’m not talking about reporters being on Twitter to broadcast material so much as using the stupendous research facilities it enables. So in producing your news stories for whatever medium you happen to work for Twitter should be a primary source of material…you can’t milk it for information if you’re not using it yourself and thus understand what its capabilities are.

      1. People used to say the same thing about facebook before it degraded into cat pictures and music videos. You’ll have to do a article about those filters you have because right now twitter is the biggest echo chamber/circle jerk I’ve experienced so far on the internet.

      2. Seriously no comparison between Facebook and Twitter–chalk and cheese…below some tips on Twitter from the same article i quoted:

        “Don’s use Twitter.com. Use an app. There is a lot of outcry right now (by myself as well) about the imminent demise of some Tweetdeck apps (version 0.38.2 is by far the best, if you can have it and keep it indefinitely – other apps are OK on smartphones, e.g., HootSuite or Twitterific). It is important to me not to have Twitter/Tweetdeck as yet another tab in my browser, a place where I have to go and spend time. Twitter is not a site to go to and spend time on. Twitter should be a part of the workflow, silently running in the back, behind my open browser.

        Tweets show up in the corner and 99% of the time I do not even notice them. I am busy with something else, and I mentally block them out. But I have a “search image” (a term from ethology – a bird does not systematically scan every inch of tree bark, instead it has a search image for the shape and color of its prey insect and automatically homes in on it). If a tweet shows up with my name in it, or a specific word in it, or by a specific person, I will notice and take a glance. If there is nothing important, I only lost 1/10th of a second and can go back to what I was doing. If it seems important, I will Favorite the tweet (if unsure of the quality of content) or Retweet it (if it comes from a trusted source), so I can have it saved to read later. If it seems important and urgent, I will click through and investigate. Perhaps this is information that is more important to me than whatever else I happen to be doing at the time. And even then, I will probably spend only a few minutes on it before returning to whatever I was doing before.

        In Tweetdeck (or any similar app), one should have a number of columns – move them around: the default position may not the the best one for you (I move “All Friends” far away to the right so I don’t have to see it almost ever). Mentions and Direct Messages are your more important columns, but also make several that follow Lists (your own, or other people’s), or display tweets that contain particular words or hashtags (your “Saved Searches”). I will add a column for an event hashtag while the event is on, then delete the column afterward. Play around until you refine your filtering this way.”

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